Buying Eggs Is So Confusing!!

Each label makes me think that the chicken who popped it out was tap-dancing through the pasture with his little chicken friends enjoying the scattered seeds and delicious grasses.

Unfortunately marketing once again ruins EVERYTHING and labels like “CAGE FREE” are just a cover up to make us think that these birds are being somewhat humanely.

Net net, no tap dancing chickens…

What we’ve done here is break down each type of egg label for you – with your new understanding of eggs, you can now cook a cleaner and healthier breakfast!

The Breakdown

Cage-free, a term regulated by the USDA, means that the eggs come from hens that, put simply, aren’t caged: They can “freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle, but [do] not have access to the outdoors.” Considering the conventional cage is 8 ½ by 11 inches, or the size of a piece of paper, this seems like a better lifestyle — but there are downsides, too. According to All About Eggs by Rachel Khong, cage-free facilities have more hen-on-hen violence and lower air quality than facilities that use cages.

Free-range, another USDA term, means that the eggs come from hens that have some sort of access to the outdoors. However, it doesn’t mean that the hens actually go outdoors, or that the outdoor space is more than a small, fenced-in area; it simply implies that a door exists that a farmer could at some point open.

Pasture-raised is not a term regulated by the USDA; however, if the carton says “pasture-raised” and also includes stamps that say “Certified Humane” and/or “Animal Welfare Approved,” it means that each hen was given 108 square feet of outdoor space, as well as barn space indoors. This is pretty much as close to the bucolic, E-I-E-O farm vibe you’ll get when dealing with large-scale egg producers, so if you’re looking to support those practices, keep a look out for those labels.

Organic means the only stipulation is that they must come from hens who are fed an organic diet. Amount of space per hen, access to the outdoors — neither of those are specified or required, though many organic eggs are also at least free-range.

Hormone-free means that the hen wasn’t administered hormones, which isn’t particularly commendable—considering that hormones and steroids are already banned by the FDA. No Added Antibiotics is another funny term, because very few hens are administered antibiotics—and those that do end up being “diverted from human consumption” anyways.

Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved seal are good bets—both of which are administered by third-party groups. When it comes to brands, Vital Farms, Family Homestead, Oliver’s Organic, Happy Egg Co., and Pete and Gerry’s all have particularly good reputations, as well as Safeway’s cage-free eggs and Kirkland organic eggs at Costco.

Now all you have to do is remember this information next time your shopping at the local mart and BOOM! Golden goose you are 🙂

Thanks to Eater.com for the info!

Peace and Love!

– Steel